On Broughton and Davie

On Broughton and Davie: The Burying and Recovering of Cultural Identity
by Bahar Sadeghieh

I. Backstory

Beloved friends, cherished family
Their before then pictures
Carefree and weightless
In flesh fast forward
A rare sighting
Now the rooms, they gathered
Exude sorrow
Harrowing moments
In the rearview mirror
Closer than they appear
Never approached, nor psychoanalyzed
A room of silent, implied words


Streets, shortcuts, local secrets
Understood formalities
Regional talk, verified vernacular
My parents had to love
Yet abandon
This home called Iran
They left once before
My sister, born in ‘78
The year of the Iranian Revolution
Hustled to America
boomeranged back
Despite demonstrations
Petrifying protests
They had to love it
To return to the abuser, unpeaceable
This supposed home called Iran


Me, I was not easier
Another war, a second child
Next steps to flee planned thorough
Yet hostility flourished
Home invasions, executions
No way to know where or when
Underground, we huddled
The eventual climb upstairs
Revealed dissociated fragments
Deconstructed matter
Shattered plans
The spirit of home dissipated
To escape the grasp
That crooked government
Whose claim to power
Is control
Their citizen’s lives
Eliminated from the agenda
Fear tactics and brutality
Media shutdown
Blossoming misinformation turned invasive
Toxic marriage of law and religion
One must have a plan to leave swift


A smuggler of people
Leading the path
A promise of “maybe”
Transforming facts
Producing paperwork
The ultimate gamble
The outcome will be success
Jail or death
The unspeakable alternative
Returning to a place
That no longer represents home

The smuggler fled,
“I will be right back”
Where did he go?

Unfamiliar herd, all strangers
Went through Turkey, Singapore, Malaysia, China
Not a vacation
Together, attached
On we trekked to Canada
An envelope of official paperwork
Eyed, yet unopened by authorities
Later, we looked
Shredded paper

That empty, aching pain
In the stomach, hollow
When pushing through fear
How did they carry on
Intact. What fell apart?

My father
He scorns that place
Never to return
To his birthplace
Merely a place to be born

II. We Made it

Apartments in Vancouver’s West End, ca. 1980

The West End in ’88
A place to the allocated
Establishing home
Unaware of Vancouver’s future
Formed by gentrification
The scattered and searching
A second chance
Refugees and immigrants
Permanent interlink
On Broughton and Davie
A dark apartment
Low-income sanctuary
A home to those on the plane
Behind each door
Varying experiences
With bold parts of their story matching
Recognition of opportunity
Deep in their stomach
Dark caves among the synapses
Memories of another life
A horrible flash
Those left behind are never forgotten


We four, we lived in a bachelor suite
Forced to share a bed
I was one or two
A glimpse, a flash
Appears to me
That black building
Shaky steps on Davie Street
To English Bay, approaching the ducks
Heart beating as giants surge past
Stanley Park, my backyard, filled with those like us
Can’t comprehend
The West End now
But when I go there, I see
My little shadow
Playing in the grass
Though we had nothing
I was unaware
Those days were bittersweet
The four of us

III. Cultural Map

Three forms of nourishment
Held me accountable
Kept me home
Fuel for heart beats
When all the little things
In this life drip down the drain
Below flesh, infused within bones
chay, anar, and sabzi
Ancestor’s artifacts
Specifically, Mother
When I end up
In far back times
The origin of my memories
I see chay, anar, and sabzi
It takes place before me
Permeating past me, and through me
Surges through generations
A memory among souls


Sabzi, the staple
Vibrant green,
Fresh fields in a bowl
Served in abundance
By the handful
Strands and stalks
Meet at the junction
Between fingers
Parsley, mint, green onions, and cilantro
Traditional Persian Dishes
Seize to exist without them
My mother sits
With massive mound, individually
Cleansing each leave, each stalk
Meticulously focused, narrowed precision
A tedious task unshared
Her choice, her duty
An action that dates back
Patience uninherited


From the silk road
Into our homes
Whether in tea houses
Or in familiar places
Throughout history
Every Persian home, distinctive
But alas

A method perfected. Renewed
Boil water in the kettle
Tea pot filled
With floating black specks
Hydrate, swell, dilute
The amount of water
Determines the strength
Keep repeating
The home will not be dry
From the moment they wake
And seconds before they sleep
My parents
They repeat this cycle
Steeping and replenishing
A continual, lifelong thirst
In the morning, the caffeine awakens
At night, the properties shift
Soothingly sedating
The aroma
The invisible trail
Dispersing particles
Ocular and olfactory
Nerves enticed
The first dance
With bitter, smooth
Cardamon undertones
Bergamot twist, teeth tannin stained
Was from a bottle

Anar is abundance, a ruby-red blessing
Delicious deciduous
Fruit-bearing shrub
Its taste first spoken of
In the Mediterranean

A thick, protective shield
Holds pockets
Of luscious red, glistening beads
A diamond’s protocol
Not merely fruit
A cultural symbol
Deeply rooted, intertwined
From those grown inside
To the divine
Craved by my pregnant mother
Never quelled
On the floor, she cuts them open
Heavy knife in hand
Individually removes each sweet seed
Stored for easy access
Revel in it by the spoonful


Together we came
Mother, Father, Sister. Me
They share memories
The experience of escaping
I was there, but have none
Theirs was shared
Solely, I had mine

Language and cultural
Home cooked meals
I would let it all deflect. Denial
Note mine
Sharp cutting barbed wire
Divided us
Set me apart

A deranged scientist
I left my culture
Out of the equation
Replaced it with
Artificial compounds
These experiments dulled me
Numbed myself young

The sabzi, chai, and anar
Their persistence
A friendly, nurturing parasite
I tried to eradicate
But they only grew
Multiplied, thrived
Re-injected culture
Through thick aroma
The photosynthesized strands
And ruby-red beads
They ensured I stayed nourished
Kept me

IV. Internalizing

Persistently uncommitted, I was
with the everyday
tasks and monotony
An unmotivated child
My soul blended with the static
Connecting me to a ’86 MTC television set
Neon landscape, pastel sidekick
An influx of information that will raise me
Pave me and replace me
Instructing me to brighten my display, lighter
Customs only make you darker
Intoxicated from a screen, blinded by sepia
I then put myself in their place
Where I want to be
Even if it is imaginary

My pursuit, though
So dedicated, obsessively
To disconnecting from my land
I wished to
Expel my blood, and replace it
With another
Break all ties
Seemingly so steadfast and devoted
To this unworthy cause
Motivation concentrated
A profusely burning pinhead
Towards a backwards pursuit
It failed to succeed
But that pinhead burned
Comments borne of ignorance
Blatant and subtle racism
Glances, Comments
Repetitive reintroduction
As I lay in bed, passing by
A film about someone
I do not want to be
Cores beliefs imbedded
Profoundly, as a child is naïve
Me, especially
To be accepted
Was to not trace back
To where we came from
Cookie cutter desires

V. Name Change and Forgotten Language

Seldom overt, directed actions
Of loathing, and hate
Covert, rather
Minor, so small. I feared
I was imagining the othering
Undiscernible If it was Me
Unusual, or culture?
Not from this world
Earth’s light side
Deep valley of the every day
We, the others, face the moon
Glances dig in uncertainty
My identity diluted
And I left myself behind
Thought I murdered
Instead, I manufactured dualism
Neither whole
For in spite created

Name change in the fifth grade
A plain name, one you see often
The easiest one
My identifiers, quite different
But that had almost the same letters
Two A’s, an H, and an R
But in a different order
And one letter replacing another
My first name got suffocated
In the middle. Stamped and legal.
Maybe, in this new school
If I start with haste, young
Everyone will forget
That other me
A destroyer of history. Alexander the Great
I left some words. Erased most
Replying to Farsi in English
Degenerative methodology
Or maybe detective
Who manipulates Evidence
To rest the case
It doesn’t matter who
Is sacrificed behind bars

VI. Identity Crisis

Unnourished, unable
My other half continued
But unloved, it hurt me
Stunted me
Compartments appeared
In every section
Flesh, mind, soul
Moulding, changing
To fit the current circumstance
This identity’s crisis
I could no longer branch off
The choice to separate
Met me in my anxious stomach
Thoughts ruminating, never-ending
A demand for coexistence
That burial was unjust

VII. Reclaim

I put my birth name first. Took it back
And set my other name centred, a reminder
You will pronounce it
Symbolically enticing
But to bring bloom to those twisted vines
My hands, my mind, humbly committed

Culture communicated through language
Back then, I cut my throat
A consistent ache. Restricted
When intentionally Farsi unravelled
The lump reduced

I now fumble through Farsi
The words I choose are simple
The point still gets across
Unskillful, In curtailing Farsi
There were too many people, though, around
In my family, on the streets. Their words
Pouring in me, subconscious revival
Unskillful annihilator, thankfully

Awkwardly, I dig for words
And fall back on the ones
I knew before the halt
Excavator, discovering
What was torn apart
Reconstructed unique, fresh
I blunder through the words, proudly
The artifacts in my mother’s home
I want them

Letters written to Esfahan
To my grandmother and aunts
With assistance from my mother
The Farsi alphabets
Strung together, to formulate
A succinct message
Presented messy lagging penmanship
The meaning is rich, I am certain
I miss you and love you
I am proud to be part of you
And to speak our language


Bahar Sadeghieh

Bahar Sadeghieh is a student in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Simon Fraser University.


The British Columbia Review

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies.

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

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